Skip to main content
Seattle University


Digging the Douglas

Written by Mike Thee
May 10, 2010

Construction began this month on the Douglas Building at 12th and Cherry, a partnership involving SU and the developer Seneca Group. When completed, the mixed-use building will include 81 units and 259 beds, most of which will be for SU students (specifically upper class). Joy Jacobson, director of design and construction, is SU’s point person on the project. Here are some questions and answers based on The Commons’ interview with Jacobson and materials about the project.

Who owns what? 

SU owns the land. The building will be owned by Seneca Group. SU will lease 6,000 square feet of space on the building’s ground floor to create something on the order of a lobby (similar to what you find in SU’s residence halls). Meanwhile, the developer will lease the land from SU. The SU students who reside in the building will rent directly from the firm. Eventually (meaning many decades from now), ownership of the building will revert to SU. It’s sort of a rent-to-own stipulation, except that all the while the university will be collecting rent on the land.

SU has never attempted an arrangement like this, but new as it may be to the university, “The model has been successful at other universities,” Jacobson says.

What kinds of units will be available to students?

Of the 81 units of student housing, 52 will be four bedrooms/two bathrooms; 16 will be one bedroom/one bath; 10 will be two bedroom/one bath; and three will be five bedrooms/two baths. Each unit also includes a living room.

As for their style and functionality, Jacobson says, “They are catered to the student lifestyle,” more similar to the Murphy Apartments than, say, those in the Rianna Building.

Why is it called “The Douglas Building?”

The name of the building was selected by the developer and refers to one of the project’s investors.

Will there be housing for faculty and staff?

Included in the building’s 81 housing units are seven townhouses, each with two bedrooms/two bathrooms. While the townhouses are not reserved for the SU community, per se, faculty and staff could certainly buy them.

How much retail space will there be?

Of the building’s total square footage (approximately 143,000), about 9,000 will be dedicated to retail space. City code requires that the ground-floor space fronting 12th Ave. and Cherry St. be filled by retail. Depending on how the space is used, there are anywhere from 3-6 commercial units available. It remains to be seen what sorts of tenants will lease the space, but all the usual suspects are in the running, says Jacobson, including restaurants, banks, etc. There will be no retail fronting 13th Ave. and James Ct.

How about parking?

There will be 49 stalls of underground parking. Most of these will be for students living in the building’s housing units.

How has the project been received by SU’s neighbors?

Very well, says Jacobson. “They’re really looking forward to something being built there finally,” she says of the long vacant land.